Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, travel insurance was always important, meaning now more than ever, it has become essential. The government’s official travel advisory is still asking Canadians to limit non-essential trips outside of Canada until further notice. However, people are still travelling and there’s much more to consider when it comes to travel insurance as we navigate our excursions throughout the pandemic. Let’s examine how you can get the best COVID-19 travel insurance coverage for your next trip.
A Global News segment recently reported that travel insurance specialists advised anyone already on their trip should be covered if they obtained insurance prior to the travel advisory being issued on December 15, 2021. However, those yet to travel out of the country should check with their isure broker to make sure their policies aren’t voided.
Before choosing your destination, choose your coverage
Not all COVID-19 travel insurance policies are equal, so there are a few things you should know before booking your getaway. Most importantly, how to protect yourself financially if COVID-19 disrupts your journey, and what coverage you have for medical expenses if you happen to get sick.
Here are some pointers when looking at booking your getaway:
- Before you book, check with your travel agent and the airline about their policies and rules when it comes to flight cancellations caused by COVID-19. Some airlines provide free COVID-19 medical coverage to passengers booking certain international flights and vacation packages.
- Ask your airline how to protect your money if you’re subject to COVID flight cancellation restrictions; know what it includes, how many days before you travel that it will be in effect and the maximum payout you could receive.
- Be ready to show documentation that you have both doses (and booster shot) to board domestic flights.
- Check with the country of destination about what their travel restrictions are and how to get a COVID-19 test before you travel back.
Right now, to enter back into Canada, all travelers five years of age or older (regardless of citizenship) must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to enter Canada. This includes those who are fully vaccinated. This cannot be an antigen test, but one done through a nasal swab (rapid tests count).
Travelling outside of Canada
If you’re travelling abroad during the pandemic, the Government of Canada website recommends you check with your insurance provider or broker about COVID-19 travel insurance coverage. Ask if your insurance provider has coverage for COVID-19 medical expenses, non-COVID-19 emergency expenses, as well as trip interruption. The government cautions that some insurance companies may offer COVID-19 medical expenses coverage, but they may not include protection for non-COVID-19 emergency expenses.
Which type of travel insurance do you need?
Prior to going on holiday, obtaining travel insurance has always been highly recommended. Typically, the main types of travel insurance are:
- Medical travel insurance: This makes sure you are covered in the event of an accident or illness while you are away from home. It also covers repatriation (bringing you back home).
- Trip cancellation insurance: Trips can get cancelled or interrupted for any number of reasons. Travel insurance helps safeguard against and helps to recoup lost expenses due to trip interruption or trip cancellation (i.e. delays due to severe weather).
- Snowbird insurance: To escape the cold Canadian winters, thousands of seniors travel to sunnier climates south of the border. Having travel insurance ensures they have access to the medical care and travel assistance they need during their time outside of Canada.
Travel insurance can also offer coverage from other nuisances, like missing baggage. Should your luggage get lost, stolen or damaged, travel insurance can offer financial reimbursement if needed. Missing a flight can also put a serious damper on your vacation plans, but travel insurance can help offer coverage should you be left at the gate.
One of the biggest misconceptions about travel insurance is that you only need it when you are travelling outside of Canada, which is not true. We Canadians should get travel insurance ANY TIME we travel outside of our home province to ensure we protect the investment in our trip.
All-inclusive travel insurance
If you really want to put your mind at ease when travelling, then all-inclusive travel insurance is your best option. It provides travelers with complete coverage for any issue they may encounter during their trip, including:
- Trip cancellation
- Emergency medical care
- Follow-up dental care after an accident while traveling
- Lost, stolen or delayed baggage
- Repatriation of deceased traveler
- Family member visitation
- Accident insurance during air travel
- Accident insurance during public transit trip
COVID-19 travel insurance coverage to ask about
When discussing travel insurance with your isure broker, it is important to make sure that you have coverage for incidents and upsets that may arise due to COVID-19. Make sure that your coverage addresses these three points:
- Be sure that you get insurance that covers any hospitalization costs incurred, should you or a family member suffer from severe symptoms during their trip.
- Coverage if you run into any unexpected issues, including sudden changes to border restrictions. If you’ve already purchased a non-refundable plane ticket, look for companies that offer trip cancellation insurance to reimburse your airfare.
- Coverage should you enter another country and test positive for COVID-19, you may want insurance to cover any quarantine expenditures.
As a result of the travel advisory, some insurers may bring back a top-up pandemic rider for travelers who want to be covered for COVID-related expenses. This means that you will need to either purchase a rider, a pandemic plan rider or you may not be covered. Speak with one of our isure representatives for more details.
Currently, for a return trip, a fully-vaccinated Canadian and permanent residents coming home after short trips of 72 hours or less do not have to provide proof of a negative molecular test, such as a PCR test. For longer trips, anyone coming into Canada from international locations is required to have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their scheduled departure in order to board the aircraft and to avoid a potential 14-day quarantine when they arrive.
What is ArriveCAN?
If you are travelling by air, land or sea to Canada, you are required to provide essential information before you arrive on the official Government of Canada platform, ArriveCAN. The use of ArriveCAN, which has been mandatory for travellers since November 2020, expedites processing and helps to protect the health and safety of travelers and employees.
ArriveCAN is a free, secure, user-friendly digital tool to help travelers comply with Canada’s border measures quickly and securely. It is available as a mobile app or by signing in online. Find out more about downloading and using ArriveCAN here.
Who needs to use ArriveCAN?
All travelers (with limited exceptions,) whether entering Canada by air, land, rail or marine vessel, must use ArriveCAN unless exempt from this requirement due to an accessibility need. You’ll need to submit your information within 72 hours before your arrival to Canada.
What happens if I get COVID before I leave?
You must purchase trip cancellation insurance before you are scheduled to leave in order to have coverage if you can’t fly due to contracting COVID-19. When buying travel insurance, make sure you ask about cancellation insurance and the cut-off date for cancellation in order to get a full refund. Some insurance providers are now excluding COVID-19-related cancellations.
I have travel insurance on my credit card, isn’t that enough?
Trip cancellation is not automatically covered if you’re using your credit card travel insurance. For many, travel credit card trip interruption and travel medical insurance coverage – typically features of your credit card – may no longer be in force because of the ongoing travel advisory.
Will OHIP cover my medical expenses in the United States?
Yes and no. OHIP does not insure or pay for all out-of-country medical services. Also, the amount of funding provided by OHIP will not usually cover the full cost of any health services that you do obtain outside of Canada. Your OHIP covers only very limited amounts for hospital, health facility and physician services outside of Ontario and Canada. OHIP does not pay for ambulance services, transportation costs or out-of-hospital food/accommodation/drugs or prescriptions.
Does travel insurance cover COVID-related trip cancellations?
Some travel insurers now offer limited coverage for COVID-19. It will likely only cover medical, quarantine or cancellation costs if you test positive for COVID-19 and cannot travel. However, travel insurance is unlikely to cover cancellation if you’re not able to travel due to lockdowns at home or your planned destination.
Does insurance get more expensive closer to the trip?
Unlike other aspects of your travel experience, like airfares or hotel-room rates, the price of travel insurance doesn’t increase the closer you get to your travel date. There’s no financial penalty if you wait to buy travel insurance (except for those bonus coverages, of course).
Can you have two travel insurance policies?
If the benefits available in one policy do not satisfy your needs, you can purchase another policy to compensate for coverage, as long as the policies are from different travel insurance providers. Having multiple policies can help you if the benefit limits on one policy are exhausted.
When planning your next getaway, remember that while traveling may look different right now, it doesn’t have to dampen your holiday experience. We’ll get you flexible and affordable COVID-19 travel insurance coverage based on your unique travel needs so that you can enjoy your trip to the fullest.